The E-Discovery Field Guide
Cost-Effective E-Discovery Strategies for Litigation On a Budget: Developing a Sophisticated E-Discovery Process
In this month’s edition of Cost-Effective E-Discovery Strategies for Litigation on a Budget, Bernstein Shur and Evidox will address an alternative to client-managed E-discovery: a sophisticated electronic preservation, collection, review, and production E-discovery process.
By partnering early on with an E-discovery vendor like Evidox, attorneys can develop and implement a full-service E-discovery process to clients that is both legally sufficient and cost-effective. Below we outline a sample E-discovery plan and the potential costs at each step. Although the costs and needs of each case will vary, the following example shows that working with an E-discovery vendor is often not as expensive as parties expect, and the partnership actually can save substantial costs in the long-run by reducing attorney hours and avoiding costly missteps.
Step 1: Data Collection
The first step in E-discovery is collecting the data from a client’s electronic sources. Rather than self-collecting, E-discovery tools can export email data from the Outlook environment or cloud storage, and record other elements of the collection process from the client server environment. In addition, an E-discovery vendor can create forensic images of Windows OS computers utilizing remote acquisition software to ensure that a complete collection occurs, which avoids losing relevant information and limits the need for a costly second collection.
- A standard consulting rate to assist with collections is $250 per hour
- Remote forensic imaging of laptop and desktop computers is $550 per device
Step 2: Data Ingestion
E-discovery data ingestion is an algorithmic-based process that consolidates all collected data into a single indexed repository. This ingestion is the first step in data reduction, including de-duplication. Reducing unnecessary data size limits the cost of hosting repetitive data, speeds up the review, eliminates the risk of inconsistent treatment of identical documents, and avoids costs from producing the same data multiple times. In sum, this simple front-end step can save substantial costs on the back-end.
- A standard rate for pre-culling is $50 per GB, with available volume discounts
Step 3: Scanning Paper Documents
Even with today’s technology, relevant information still is often contained on paper. Paper documents can be scanned and OCR’d (to make them searchable) for inclusion in the same review database as the electronic documents. This allows the entire review to run from the same collection of documents.
- A standard base rate for scanning is $0.16 per page and $.03 per page to OCR documents
Step 4: Online Hosting
The data that survives de-duplication and data ingestion must be hosted in a review system accessible to attorneys. For example, the Eclipse system used by Evidox allows users to host data and to further cull that data for production, including through search terms and computer analytics. Related costs include fees for loading and hosting data, and maintaining user licenses for accessing the database.
- Load fee: A standard rate is $25 per GB loaded
- Monthly hosting fee: A standard rate is $25 per GB hosted per month
- Monthly user fee: $75 per user per month
Step 5: Production
Attorneys have several options for formatting the production of responsive, non-privileged documents, and often the formatting specifications will be addressed between parties early in the case. One of the most cost-effective methods is to produce documents in native format, while another common method is to produce TIFF images of documents, which allows the party to endorse the document with Bates numbers and confidentiality language.
- A standard base rate TIFFing is $0.08 per page / $400 per GB
- A standard cost for endorsing TIFF’d documents with bates numbers and confidentiality legends (e.g., “Attorneys’ Eyes Only,” “Confidential,” etc.) is $0.01 per page
From data collection to document production, E-discovery tools are available for cases of all sizes. While actual costs may vary at each step, attorneys can work with the E-discovery vendor to develop a case plan that fits within the client’s budget and conforms to the needs of the case. Altogether, the E-discovery vendor costs may be as low as a few thousand dollars for a small case involving only a handful of custodians and a total dataset ingestion of 10 GB.
In the next installment, we will discuss the many ways that employing best E-discovery practices can actually reduce the overall legal spend, even in a small case involving modest amounts of electronically stored information.